On average, Americans spend more than four hours a day on the phone. That amounts to 28 hours a week, 112 hours a month or 56 full days a year. Yikes!
Four hours a day is a lot of time spent on a device. And chances are some of this time is being spent during work hours.
I work for a technology company. We use several web-based applications that can be easily used on a phone. I began to have a reason to use my phone at any moment during the work day. Over time, my use of work applications started to diminish and my use of personal apps started to emerge.
One day while in the office, I realized my phone habit was taking over. As I was responding to an email on my computer, an email notification popped up on my phone. I stopped typing on my computer to open the email, read it, and respond. I closed the email app and noticed I had twelve unread text messages. I responded to those. Then a notification from Twitter appeared... Do you see where I’m going here? The moral of the story is that I didn’t finish that initial email until two hours later. I got distracted by my phone.
It took me about six months to really kick this phone habit. But with these four easy steps, you should be able to jumpstart your detachment journey much quicker.
And no, I’m not going to tell you to use the "Do Not Disturb" function or a phone-use tracking app. That would be too simple.
1. Start at home.
How many times does this happen to you: you’re watching a TV show when you unconsciously reach over to grab your cell phone, and then start scrolling. Soon, you aren't paying attention to anything that happens on the TV.
This same pattern transfers over into your work life. Trying to change a habit starts with your everyday routine. Set some phone boundaries or goals while at home. Think about starting small. Here are some sample ideas:
- Watch an entire TV show without picking up your phone.
- Purchase an alarm clock to wake up versus using your phone.
- Charge your phone in an area where it forces you to get up and walk to it — not right next to your bed or couch. Even a few inches can make a difference.
2. Ditch 90% of your notifications.
Push notifications make us hallucinate. According to a 2017 University of Michigan study, more than 80% of college students have experienced “phantom” vibrations or calls. Notifications are the number one thing that pull you into your smartphone. Turning them off might give you a serious case of FOMO, but over time, you will notice a decline in your phone pickups from this one simple change.
Keep notifications on for phone calls, voicemails and text messages. That’s it! Everything else should be turned off. No other notifications on your lock screen. Did you notice I left out email? Why do you need your email to pop up on your phone when you are in front of the computer? It is one of the most distracting things, outside of social media, that notifies you during the work day.
3. Turn on your ringer.
This was one of the best tricks I’ve discovered. I turned off all my sound and vibrate tones for everything except phone calls. Now when I get texts, I’m not distracted by a ding or vibrate. It also increased my battery life.
This turns your cell phone into a house-like phone. When it is across the room or out of sight and someone calls you, you will be aware. There's no need to keep it close to you all the time. Because let’s be honest, no one is going to text or email you if it’s an emergency. They’re going to call. If your ringer is on, you won’t miss it.
If this is too drastic, give tones to certain people. My fiancé is the only contact that will vibrate when he sends a text.
4. Give yourself time to check your phone.
I do not expect anyone to go through an entire work day without checking their phone for something non-work related. Sometimes we need that hilarious meme from a group chat to give us a 3pm pick-me-up.
Again, set some boundaries for yourself. Work uninterrupted for 30 minutes without picking up your phone. Then, reward yourself with five minutes of free phone use. Over time, increase your undistracted work time. Next thing you know, an hour has passed and you haven’t even looked at your phone.
One tactic I used was placing my phone in a drawer so I don’t see messages flashing across the screen. I can still hear if I get a call because my ringer is on.
These strategies will take some getting used to, but small changes will go far. There are always modifications for everything. Start small. Pick one of these four tips and start today. You will notice a huge increase in your focus and productivity!
Jemia is a certified Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner from Georgetown University. Her passions lie in research around equity, gender & diversity and blogging about her experiences as a woman of color. Oh and let's not forget Brunch! You can find Jemia on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.